US intelligence agencies judge Putin personally ordered election hacks

As stated Friday in a declassified report complied by U.S. intelligence officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered and oversaw a covert cyber campaign devised to aid the election of New York businessman Donald Trump to the White House.

The report also concludes Mr. Putin’s objective was to discredit Trump’s Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton, and, furthermore, to weaken American voters’ faith in the honest election devices of a democracy.

Three intelligence agencies, CIA, FBI and NSA, contributed to the appraisal of alleged Russian influence in the Nov. 8, 2016, election.

“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.  We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” read one portion of the intelligence report.

Among the most incriminating charges:  Moscow utilized state-funded propaganda and paid Internet “trolls” to make disparaging remarks on social media platforms and hacked into the email accounts of DNC officials, particularly Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Efforts by Russia have continued since the November election with a “spear-phishing” campaign aiming to obtain email passwords from government officials and public-policy institutions which specialize in the formulation of security, defense and foreign policy.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyber activity — with overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” read one section of the public report. 

In addition, the report alleges state media outlet Russia Today “actively collaborated with” WikiLeaks and the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, receiving “secret information” from the Australian publisher and giving him “sympathetic coverage and . . . a platform to denounce the United States.”

Still, though, the most incriminating charge persists in the belief the entire operation was personally ordered by Vladimir Putin. Despite the exhaustive analysis of information collected by the trio of intelligence agencies, the final report did conclude no alleged cyber effort mounted by the Kremlin changed the vote tally.

Initially dismissing claims Russia attempted to shape the outcome of the U.S. election as a “witch hunt,” following his intelligence briefing, Mr. Trump released a statement which declared his conviction Russia had no impact on the election.  Shortly after, Trump tweeted the DNC’s “gross negligence” allowed the cyber invasions.

Ahead of the declassification of the report investigating alleged Russian hacking attempts, President Obama hit the Kremlin with sanctions on Monday.  The White House expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic residences in the U.S.

 

[AP] [Roll Call] [Business Insider]